Tag Archives: Animals

Top 10 Best Ways to Live with an Older Dog

5 Jan

Those of us who are lucky are blessed with dogs who live long and healthy lives. But even those dogs will slow down and show signs of aging that can be more difficult for us humans to adjust to than for our pooches.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned from having now lived with three dogs over 15 years-old:

1.  Stick to the routine. Whether it’s visual impairment, dementia, or some other age-related issue, older dogs like predictability. This is not the time to rearrange the furniture, move to a new place, or start living with a fire-juggler.

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2.  Organize it. Your dog may take a number of supplements or drugs. It is easier if everything is labeled and set up in a way that makes it quick and easy to make sure you don’t skip anything important.

3.  Find ways to include them. Older dogs may not be able to go on long walks with your and the rest of the pack, but you can find ways to include them. A doggy stroller or a wagon are great ways to get your older pooch out of the house without putting to much demand on him. If you’re going out when it’s chilly, make sure to wrap him up so he’s toasty. And make sure to give your hound the opportunity to get off the wagon and sniff around a little too.

4.  Just follow them. When I let Justin (15-1/2) outside, it can take him what seems like forever to come back in. And I don’t know whether he’s having fun, lost, or worse stuck somewhere (he tends to stick his snout in places his body can’t get out of it). It’s easier on both of us if I just go with him. And I live in the rainy northwest. That’s what waterproof jackets are for–yes, we both have one.

5.  Hey, he can hear that! Even if your dog can no longer hear most things, chances are there are a few sounds that will get her attention. Two of my older dogs couldn’t hear my voice, but both could hear the sound of a spoon clinking on a bowl and the sound of clapping. When I want to help Justin find his way back in the house, I clap and he follows me (most of the time). I imagine we’re our own parade.

6.  Accidents WILL happen, so rather than get impatient and frustrated, plan for them. Have a whole drawer or doggy clean-up supplies at the ready. And if you regularly encourage your dog to go outside, that will minimize the problem. You should also go regularly, just in case THAT is also a problem.

7.  Know that there are solutions out there. Copper, my first older dog became paralyzed, but through the use of a doggy wheelchair, physical therapy (which I did by tickling his legs and stimulating his kick response), and acupuncture, he was able to walk again and had three more years of healthy activity. And with the internet, solutions are often just a click away. DO make sure that when it comes to supplements and drugs that you only rely on reputable providers.

8.  Slow down. Most older dogs still want plenty of belly rubs and ear scratches, but if they can see only shadow and light, a fast hand coming towards them may be met with a snap of the jaws. Don’t sneak up on your older hound, let him sniff you first to know it’s you, and perhaps start your love from the other end.

9.  Cuddle up. When you’re in bed with your senior dog, years can slowly melt away and the great chemical bond you create will help you cope with the stresses the day may have thrown your way.

10. If you try to re-home your dog because she is getting up in years, karma will bit you in the butt. You signed up for this, so person up and do the right thing.

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Doglight Savings Time Never Ends

1 Nov

This weekend, we’re all supposed to turn our clocks back an hour. For humans, it’s a simple task. For humans with dogs, it’s impossible.

My dogs get up at 3:30 a.m. for breakfast. I don’t know how or when it happened, but no matter what I’ve tried (giving them 10 p.m. snacks, taking them for a long walk before bed, showing them the circles under my eyes, etc.) , nothing has dissuaded them from hounding me until I cave in and serve up the vittles. It doesn’t help that between my hot flashes and need to get up to use the bathroom at night, they can feel me stirring. Once I show any sign of life, the jig is up.

So now, 3:30 will be 2:30 a.m. That’s just lovely. I’ve got a plan, but I’m sure it won’t work. Tonight, I won’t feed them dinner until 6 p.m. (an hour later than usual). The only way this will work is if I leave the house at about 4:45 and don’t return until I intend to feed them. Then at 11 p.m., a snack. We won’t go to bed until an hour later than usual. I will take some valerian to help me sleep more deeply and avoid actually moving while doing so. 

At 2:30 a.m. when they inevitable start jumping on the bed and pacing the floor, I will play possum. Or zombie…. whatever it takes. When my bladder kicks in, I will try to ignore it for two hours. When Justin stands on my trachea, I’ll roll over. When Penny starts licking my calves, knowing how ticklish I am, I will giggle quietly into a pillow. When Watson stands at the foot of the bed and howls, I’ll pretend it’s all a dream.

At 2:35, when I’m up feeding them breakfast, I will compose an e-mail to The People in Charge of This Stupid Fooling Around With Time System. Then we’ll all go back to bed and try it again the next night. I’m tired already.

Puppy Love

29 Dec

I first fell head over heels in love in 1984. He had red hair and brown eyes and my heart skipped a beat at the mere thought of him (and that was well before my mitral valve issues). Two weeks later, I fell in love with his brother too – a dark-haired hunk whose zest for life was infectious.

So I took them both home.

We were quite a threesome, my first two dachshunds – Copper and Slate – and I. And in the years since there have been four more – Maddy Lou, Justin, Penny, and Watson – about whom I have felt just as giddy. So, in honor of the New Year and starting it off on the right foot, I thought I’d write about true love of the canine variety. Puppy love, if you will.

There are some people who think that true love is romantic in nature. But according to an online dictionary (we know it must be true if it’s online, right?), “romantic love” is when the chemicals in your brain kick in and you experience an emotional high, exhilaration, and elation whenever you and your love are together. That doesn’t just happen between humans. I dare any scientist to take a blood sample to see just what chemicals (besides caffeine and chocolate) are surging through my veins when I come home and my wiener dogs wag their tails and do their “We Love Her So Much We’d Almost Even Give up Chasing Squirrels for Her” dance.

It is important to show our love to the humans we can’t live without by letting them be right occasionally and remembering that liking them on Facebook is not enough.

But we owe our doggy loves even more. Talk about unconditional love – nothing my dogs do truly irritates me. Penny can piddle on the floor right in front of me because it’s raining outside and she prefers to be dry, and as hard as I try to be annoyed with her, I am still overwhelmed by the same rush of love I felt that day I adopted her from a rescue organization and she crawled into my lap as if to say, “Well, it took you long enough!” Watson can growl at me if I try to take away whatever stuffed animal he is busy unstuffing, but I just kiss his snout and say, “Oh, you don’t really mean that.” Justin can stand on my trachea at 4:07 a.m. because he’s decided that despite what the clock says, it really must be time for breakfast. As sleepy and grumpy as I usually am at that time of morning, I’ll still call him “Dog Muffin” as I’m serving up his kibble in the wee dark hours of the morning.

By the way, standing on someone’s trachea is an excellent way to wake them up. As long as you’re under 25-lbs.

It is difficult, however, to find the perfect way to celebrate love with a four-footed friend. Even I have a hard time – and I once threw Maddy Lou a debutante party to which my best friend Rhonda wore a hoop skirt and presented Maddy Lou with her own bone china tea set which I still have in my hope chest. I can’t imagine how much trouble it is for those of you who don’t have my party-organizing skills.

A candlelit  dinner for dogs is a little over the top. Not to mention that I really shouldn’t be allowed around an open flame. Or a stove. Greeting card companies make  cards from the dog (“I love you… despite the fact that you feed me all your peas and then blame me for the consequences”), but not TO them. That’s a darn shame if you ask me. And although I’ve been known to dress my dogs up coats and sweaters, doggy lingerie is a little too kinky even for me.

There are boutique pet stores in town that carry carob-coated doggy treats shaped like little hearts, but I know what my dogs really want – besides some table scraps that don’t consist primarily of tofu and brown rice. What they truly want to show them how much I love them is for me to sit on the couch for twelve straight hours without moving a muscle – no laughing, no blinking, and no breathing so deeply that my stomach goes up and down and interrupts their naps. They want me to be their  hostage. And that’s what they’re going to get. I’ve been practicing motionlessness and shallow breathing for a week now and will have it down pat by the time 2013 rolls around.

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